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The Sacred Remains

Myth, History, and Polity in Belau

Based on two years of fieldwork in Belau, an Austronesian culture in western Micronesia, The Sacred Remains is an outstanding example of the new approach to ethnographic writing that challenges Western views of the history of non-Western societies.

Richard J. Parmentier employs semiotic methods to analyze both linguistic and nonlinguistic signs representing Belauan history, showing that these signs also organize social and political structures. He identifies four pervasive semiotic patterns that appear rhetorically in myths, chants, and historical narratives and graphically in the arrangement of certain classes of stones, including village boundary markers, burial platforms, exchange valuables, and monoliths found at abandoned sites in the islands.

While not neglecting historical evidence from Western sources, Parmentier contends that the history of Belau cannot be understood without taking into full account indigenous categories of space, time, and transformation and without recognizing the importance of Belauan social actions that construct, interpret, and transmit historical knowledge. Supporting his analysis of Belauan history with concrete ethnographic demonstration, Parmentier presents a work of central importance for Austronesianists, anthropologists, and historians.

366 pages | 7 halftones, 4 line drawings, 3 maps | 6.00 x 9.00 | © 1987

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology


Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Belauan Texts
Foreword, by Michael Silverstein
Of Stories and Stones
Toward an Anthropology of History
Signs of History, Signs in History
The Closely Guarded Story of Ngeremlengui
1. Contexts of Belau
Pacific Geographical Context
Austronesian Cultural Context
Western Historical Context
2. Traditional Political Institutions
Villages, Districts, and Federations
Houses, Titles, and Councils
Warfare, Headhunting, and Reciprocal Hostility
Money Collection, Concubinage, and Village Friendship
3. Diagrammatic Icons and Historical Processes
Four Diagrams of Social Relations
Typification and Nodality of Paths
Reccontextualization and Revaluation of Sides
Structural Complexity and Historical Vulnerability
4. Models of Transformation of Belauan Polity
Latmikaik and the Origin of Paths
Chuab and the First Political Federation
The Termination of the Polity of Chuab
The Destruction of Belau and the Rebirth of Milad
Names and Stones of Milad’s Children
Political Relations among Milad’s Children
Chants of Milad
Sides of Heaven of Belau
Models of Political Development
5. Kerngilianged: The Political Organization of Ngeremlengui
From Ngeremeskang to Ngeremlengui
Spatial Organization of Ngeremlengui
Sides, Counterposts, and Paths in Imeiong and Ngeremetengel
Affiliate Houses and Titles
Cluster Hamlets: Ulechetong and Nglabang
6. The Rhetoric of Intradistrict Historical Narratives
Static and Dynamic Perspectives
Uchuladebong: Where Sacredness Remains
Ngeremetengel: Subordinate Village or Emergent Capital?
7. The Story of Ngeremlengui
The Destruction of Uluang
The Wars of Chemeruaol
The Slaughter at Belod
The Peace of Olouch
The Assassination of Ngiracheungel
English-Belauan Glossary
Place Names

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